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Chicago boasts nation’s best downtown

Published: Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 9:54 a.m. CDT

By Paul Tooher

Back in 1964, when Petula Clark sang about “Downtown,” she invited listeners to “forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.”

Some downtowns still possess that magic, and the very best in America can be found in the heart of Chicago, according to Forbes magazine.

Of the country’s big city downtowns, the publication noted that “Chicago’s relatively compact zone in and around what’s known as ‘The Loop,’ wins hands-down for being the most accessible, pedestrian-friendly and varied in its offerings.”

The Windy City’s downtown area is also the second largest commercial business district in the United States, after New York City's Midtown Manhattan.

“Within a two-mile radius, visitors and residents alike can visit some of the world’s best restaurants, lounge in a resplendently outfitted urban park, visit world-class art museums, shop their wallets dry on Chicago’s famous store-covered Magnificent Mile, examine some of the finest architecture on the planet, find boats to tour Lake Michigan, or wander around the waterfront tourist-friendly esplanade, Navy Pier,” Forbes noted.

Chicago has weathered the flight of major retailers to suburban malls that darkened the downtown shopping districts in many other cities during the 1960s and 1970s.

But it hasn’t been immune to the disappearance of some well-established retailers, such as Marshall Fields, which was purchased by Macy’s, Inc., in 2005. Some in the Windy City continue to protest the chain’s decision to change the name of the State Street institution.

Other cities with downtowns making the magazine’s top 10 list include Portland, Ore., praised for its walkable downtown area that offers a range of cultural and commercial options, Burlington, Vt.; Indianapolis; San Antonio; Savannah, Ga.; Kansas City; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Greenville, S.C.; and Santa Monica, Calif.



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